by Alice Shu
Henry Ford quoted in his autobiography: “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.” A century later, consumerism has moved completely to the other side of the spectrum. Companies are producing more units that ever: Apple has sold over 86 million iPhones so far this year. There is also an entire industry consisting only of iPhone cases in order for customers to convey their individuality. The ubiquitous customization of products and user experiences resonates well with consumers: the opportunity for such fosters the innate human desire of self-expression. This paradox of mass customization allows companies to satisfy desires better than ever, as technology has moved into the Web 2.0.
Social media is facilitating a direct one-on-one conversation between a company and the consumer, as evident with Facebook and Twitter. Web-based applications, such as Google+ and Spotify, have exponentially added to their membership in the past few months. Both apps require user profiles, with customizable friend list groupings and music playlists, respectively. Individuals can express their unique personalities, as they join a community of millions of other users. It is then easy for companies to tap into feedback, in order to better their end product. The market research gathered from user profiles can be a much more accurate and cost-effective way in comparison to previous methods of surveys.
Now that customers have multiple avenues to voice their opinions, pick which color they want, and in some instances, even barter down the selling price, it is nearly impossible to return to the old system of standardized products for the consumer economy. We’ve certainly come a long way from the Model T.
This post is follow up to Catalyst article “The Economies of Desire”